Ever since I was born, I'd lived with an American family. They were missionaries from Atlanta and they lived with me and my family for over 14 years. So I literally grew up with their kids and they taught me English and my brother and I would teach them Portuguese (I'm Brazilian btw). They went back to Atlanta in 2010 and I sign up for an English school just to get a certificate or a diploma or something to prove that I speak English.

Later on, I got a scholarship to study high school in Canada for 6 months, only to find out that everybody, literally everybody, I talked to would presume I was American. Some people would even argue with me.

So anyways, ever since I came back, I've been working as an English teacher, I mostly teach kids and advanced students. But what intrigues me is that I hear a lot of people saying they are fluent or advanced English speakers (some of them are even English teachers) and their accents is just terrible. They sure know a lot of words, grammar and can speak and talk naturally, but they all have accents. And so one time I wrote on my resume "native speaker" and all of my friends made fun of me. They still do actually. I just don't know if "fluent" is enough of word to describe my English.

  • 11
    Fluent is fine. Your English is certainly idiomatic although your written grammar could do with a little improvement. Commented May 6, 2017 at 14:34
  • 3
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's not about learning the English language, as defined in the help center.
    – M.A.R.
    Commented May 6, 2017 at 15:14
  • 7
    A native speaker of a language is one who has spoken the language since very early childhood, and I would add, in a country where that language is spoken everywhere by nearly everyone. You did not grow up in Atlanta. Portuguese is your native tongue. Your English is quite good but not perfectly idiomatic. You've made a verb tense error, for example ("I sign up") and an error of number agreement ("their accents is") and you didn't reverse the order with "sure"; I think you meant to say, "sure, they know a lot of words...but ..."
    – TimR
    Commented May 6, 2017 at 15:54
  • 5
    @Tᴚoɯɐuo I disagree with your claim that somebody can only be a native speaker of a language if they grew up in a country where that language is spoken by nearly everyone. First, there are many languages that are not spoken by nearly everyone in any country (for example, there are about five hundred languages spoken in Nigeria, none of them by anything close to everybody). Second, you're claiming that, for example, somebody brought up by two British parents in France, speaking English at home is not a native speaker of English, and I would dispute that. Commented May 6, 2017 at 19:49
  • @David Richerby: I concede that "nearly everyone" should be qualified. My point is that there should be a huge and varied population nearby speaking the language. And so I will stick to my guns: a person brought up in a foreign country, by native-speaking parents, won't have the full-range of native language experience that a "true" native speaker would have, and will know only his or her parents' idiolects and sociolects. I wouldn't get into a bar fight about it, but I think there's a significant qualitative difference between the two language experiences.
    – TimR
    Commented May 6, 2017 at 20:58

4 Answers 4


You could say that you are a heritage speaker of English. From Wikipedia:

A heritage language is the language someone learns at home as a child which is a minority language in a society, but because of growing up with a dominant language, the speaker seems more competent in the latter and feels more comfortable communicating in that language.

This term comes up most often in regard to, say, children who grow up in the US in a Spanish-speaking home. In your case, your own parents might not have been native English-speakers, but you clearly grew up in an English-speaking household.

I think this term is probably a bit more indicative of your actual language skills than either fluent (which, as you say, can often apply to folks who learned the language as an adult and who therefore never fully acquire a "native" accent) or native (as heritage speakers may have gaps in their language or cultural knowledge, for example because they did not have the years of schooling in the heritage language's literature that someone growing up in that language's culture would have had).

  • Although it fairly characterizes OP's fluency, the term heritage speaker also carries a presumption that the parents are speakers of the language in question.
    – Colin
    Commented May 7, 2017 at 15:56
  • someone who has spoken a particular language since they were a baby, rather than having learned it as a child or adult...

Cambridge Dictionary

It sounds to me like you fit the definition of native speaker, but I think I'd use fully fluent or fluent.

If you are teaching conversational English, you are fluent but, if you are teaching grammar, I'd suggest you join us here for some practice.

  • 3
    +1 for the suggestion you made. As for the fluency I'd say fluent or nearly so. Commented May 6, 2017 at 16:11

If you would like to stress the extent of your fluency, I'd recommend saying you have near-native fluency.


Yes, you are totally, if you speak and understand like other native people. Then you are like a native speaker. Nobody should take care if you born or lived in USA or UK, it doesn't matter.

Heritage speaker might be a better term but who uses that weird words. Be confident and identify yourself as native.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .